You’ve probably never taken the time to even consider how incredible the slime layer of a fish is. I now have a better appreciation after reading a recently published piece on the bacterial flora found in the mucus layer of bluegill. Bass and all other fish are likely similar.
Slime layers are the fishes first line of defense against foreign intrusion from its watery environment. Abrasions or removal to this layer from dropping fish on boat carpets or handling fish with dry hands risks exposing a bass to an assortment of “bugs” in the water, possibly leading to infection. Advances in science now allow for a more detailed and thorough understanding, and the picture is quite cool. About the same thickness as a human hair, the slime layer of a fish has a host of antimicrobial properties. We’re also finding out that it maintains its own pH level independent of lake water and has buffering capacities to assist in the fishes survival. It’s viscosity is different from that of water, it helps fish move through their watery environment easier, and hosts tens of thousands of microbial cells.
I’ll also think twice now about eating food out on the boat without first cleaning my hands well after a day of catching and handling bass.